Wommack ready to put his signature on IU defense

Tom Allen learned the 4-2-5 system from Dave Wommack, a longtime Power 5 defensive coordinator with whom Allen worked during previous stops at Ole Miss and Arkansas State.

It’s become Allen’s preferred method of defense, a versatile set built to slow the spread offenses that have taken over college football. Wommack passed down the system’s teaching points to Allen, who installed it as his base at South Florida and continues to use it at Indiana.

Now, Allen is passing it along, handing the controls to Wommack’s son, Kane.

Promoted from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator on Dec. 27, Wommack will aim to place his own imprints on the defense that his father and Allen have made their own.

“The thing I really look forward to building is that swagger and a confidence in our group that, when we walk on that field, we’re 11 bad jokers who are ready to inflict our will upon our opponents,” Kane Wommack said. “I think that’s something that is really exciting about this group of players. They’re a pretty hungry group, and some have a nasty edge about themselves that allows you to create a culture that guys what to be a part of.”

Wommack’s promotion is a product of Allen’s desire to free himself of the coordinator duties that have eaten so much of his time during his two seasons as head coach. Since taking control of the program in December of 2016, Allen envisioned a transition such as this would one day come.

So when he hired Wommack as IU’s new linebackers coach last January, Allen had this move in mind.

Allen and Wommack had previous working experience at Ole Miss, where the latter was a graduate assistant on his father’s defensive staff in 2012 and 2013. Wommack made the jump to defensive coordinator at Eastern Illinois in 2014, then became the youngest coordinator in the Football Bowl Subdivision when he was hired at South Alabama in 2016.

That season, Wommack’s defense was the fifth-most improved nationally in scoring defense (-10.3) — one spot behind Allen’s first defense at IU.

“During that time, we talked a lot,” Allen said. “During the season, that’s the one person I would call and talk to and bounce ideas off and (say), ‘Hey, how do guys do this, how do guys do that.’ He would do the same thing with me, do it in the offseason. That, over time, built a lot of trust about what we were doing and the similarities of how we took the base system and changed it over the years.

“I obviously adapted it to the places I’ve been. He did the same. Bringing him here last year was a chance to be on the same page with terminology and just everything. So I think it’s just a unique situation for that. It gave me a lot of comfort.”

So much so that Allen began turning over in-game defensive adjustments to Wommack as the 2018 season unfolded, allowing Allen to begin taking on a more comprehensive managerial role that will continue into 2019.

“When you get deep in the year and you’re really in the heart of your game-planning and you’re watching film and then things happen, you gotta go be a head coach and you gotta go handle this situation and that situation,” Allen said. “Your day gets pushed back further and further and then you still have to get certain things done to be prepared to call (the defense).

“There’s so much film I watched to get ready to call the defense and call the game. Those times, those nights just kept getting deeper and deeper and longer and longer and getting started later. Then the nights got shorter, just getting your body ready to be what you want it to be on game day, physically, (became difficult). Just over time, I felt like this was the time to do it.”

Wommack will continue to work closely with IU’s linebackers, just as Allen will continue to have a say in the defensive scheme as he sees fit.

But the day-to-day operations of the defense will belong to Wommack, a 31-year-old who has been groomed for this opportunity.

With a year of experience working with the players inside IU’s program, Wommack believes it’ll be a smooth transition.

“Our players are going into Year 4 (in the 4-2-5 defense), the ones that have been here and running this system,” Wommack said. “My dad, who we both learned this system from, will tell you that the system evolves year-to-year based off of the personnel and what you need and the league that you’re in. We’ll always evolve and do some things. We’re never going to do things the same as the 2016 defense or the 2018 defense. The 2019 defense will do some different things. At the same time, our comfort level in knowing exactly what I have to get accomplished over the next eight months until we start the new season, there’s definitely an easier learning curve from that regard.”

After graduating eight starters at the end of the 2017 season, IU’s defense slid from No. 27 to No. 83 in 2018. The Hoosiers played 10 true freshmen on that side of the ball this past season, and while those newcomers dealt with the expected lapses, they also provided encouraging signs of things to come.

There’s work to be done on IU’s defense this spring and summer, particularly on the defensive line, where Indiana will lose a handful of key players.

The most immediate of that work now belongs to Wommack, whose job now is to ensure that the overall defensive gains made during Allen’s tenure continue.

“I know what our defense needs from a personnel standpoint, from a defensive tackle all the way to a corner,” Wommack said. “I know what we need, I know what we’re looking for and I know what we have to accomplish in this league, especially after being in it for a year. My understanding and expertise for this league and what we need in this defense, I feel like I have a pretty good handle on that.”

43 comments

  1. Womack displays character traits to be mirrored by the new man selected for responsibilities of OC. Wommack wants to be a Hoosier coordinator. He’s juiced about building the IU brand. The new OC besides holding some experience and credentials of success must demonstrate inexhaustible energy and value highly the opportunity to build a program agonizing the transition from crawling to walking.

      1. Pretty sure ‘agonize’ has always been a verb.

        Agonizing might be a gerund? Present participle maybe?

        I forget.

  2. Indiana Football is poised to become a strong program, like Northwestern, like MSU, like IA. Come on Coach Allen be successful for a long tenure! Make a great hire for OC just like you did for DC!

  3. I don’t agree that “Indiana Football is poised to become a strong program.” There’s absolutely no indication that IU Football is poised to do anything but continue to produce losing seasons. In fact, you can make a stronger case that IU Football is poised to decline after 2019 becomes our 12th consecutive losing season. Having a rookie DC and a new OC are not likely to change that. But honestly, I don’t think IU will be “poised” to become a strong program until Fred Glass is gone. Having a strong football program requires having an Athletic Director with vision, creativity and a sense of urgency. It requires, in relative terms, raising and then spending a lot of money, and Fred either can’t or chooses not to do that. In other words, we need an AD who is a strong leader, and Fred Glass is certainly not a strong leader. You evaluate organizations, especially those in sports, who have been transformed from losers to winners, from failure to success, and they almost always involve new, transformative leadership. Look at the Indy Colts since they got a new GM! As long as Fred Glass remains IU’s AD, IU Football will remain a weak football program. Besides, IU Football has to produce a winning season before it will be poised to become a strong program, and that’s not likely to happen in 2019.

    1. Po, “poised” means “ready to”. Yes IU was 5-7 in each of the last 2 seasons with a 7 point loss in the last game to prevent 6-6. Our recruiting and transfers make for excellent opportunities to upgrade our roster in all 3 phases. Our Coach is enthusiastic and gaining valuable experience. What additional resources, specifics please, can the AD give. IU has the money and the athletic department makes money each and every year under Glass. The entire athletic department is performing well, i.e. top 10 in Learfield Cup standings nationally. You have nothing to add but your negative opinion about Glass. We have heard it before. You talk about Purdue athletics as being ahead of IU but they are ranked 70’s nationally!

      1. He has developed derangement syndrome of AD Glass. It precisely mirrors h4h holding the same for Crean.

        1. Nine years of witnessing most of you numbnuts apologizing for Crean’s complete ineptitude at coaching would likely check any true Hoosier fan into the funny farm. Thankfully, I found some humor in all of it…(e.g. all the doctored images festering in your uncreative snidely brains).

          Podunker’s derangement syndrome is derived from Glass finally firing a coach who sucked at everything near a basketball court except halftime holding of hands in prayer circles.

  4. Po, I think you are wrong about the future of IU football. Watching the young players on defense and offense shows these players match up well with B1G teams. Our QB room has been upgraded quite a bit and it will make a big difference on offense. The young players have gained valuable experience and could become very good players in a hurry.

    I have to say I don’t get your negative attitude while watching the young players this past year. Contrary to a few posters, coach Allen wants a wide-open offense that has a very good running game and deeper passes while protecting the ball and being able picking up short-yardage downs. I hope he can get the OC he wants to open up the offense and make IU’s offense more explosive.

  5. V13- You da man! You never take the poison of negativity. I applaud you for your resolve. And I believe you have no personal agendas outside of your wishes to see IU Football becoming very competitive.
    Hope these qb upgrades help, but if Allen remains loyal to Ramsey, we could be in for a long season. After last season started, Allen didn’t have many options than stick with his more physically ready and experience guy behind center. Allowing Penix to face the Murderer’s Row of the conference could have been very detrimental to a frail freshman’s health. I will always believe Allen’s far-too-soon public declarations of his team’s loyalty to Ramsey(before the Dawkins’ decision) was not founded in commonsense approach you’d expect from a smart leader.
    Let’s hope he keeps his personal thought processes to himself until the opening kickoff of 2019.

    Have a Happy New Year, V13!

  6. Last year it was the new strength and conditioning guys who were going to improve Ramsey’s arm and transform the offensive line. The year before, Tom Allen as HC was to be the missing piece that would get the team to break through. The year before, Lagow and the defense would get us to 7-8 wins. This year, someone named Kane Wommack is supposed to be the missing piece even though his 1 year in Bloomington saw the team drop 50 spots in the defensive rankings. Yes the recruiting is better but 10th in the Big 10 gets you 5-6 wins. With the schedule next year, playing at Maryland, the team has to improve just to get back to 5-7. A lot will depend on who they bring in as OC and whether or not he comes with a proven offense. The team should improve but their record may not.

  7. Oh boy, since when did so many Hoosier fans become Polly Anna? If you guys are representative of The Hoosier Nation, no wonder nothing changes with IU’s Football program.

    Disagreeing that IU Football is “poised” to become a strong program is not being negative, it’s being realistic. And I guess it depends on your definition of a “strong” program. But since that comment originally referenced Northwestern, Iowa and MSU, no one with any objectivity can honestly say that IU Football is poised to compete at the level of those schools, which is to compete for the chance to play in the Big Ten Championship each year. At best, IU is poised to improve from a weak/losing football program to an average football program that breaks even from year to year. Right now, just having an “average” football program would be a major accomplishment.

    Heck, IU fans don’t fill Memorial Stadium even when OSU, MI or PSU comes to town. Attendance at home games against really good football teams is a barometer of IU Football’s strength. “Strong” football programs don’t play home games in stadiums with 25% of their seats empty at kickoff and 40% of them empty throughout the second half. Strong Football programs are not coached by the lowest paid coaching staff in the conference. Strong football programs don’t have recruiting classes that are consistently ranked in the bottom third of their conference. Strong football programs don’t produce 11 consecutive losing seasons. Schools with strong football programs would NEVER tolerate an Athletic Director who has overseen a program that has produced 11 consecutive losing seasons.

    There’s a possibility IU Football could win six regular season games in 2019 and go to another minor bowl game. In relative terms, that would be wonderful, fun and exciting. But given next season’s schedule, that outcome is unlikely. Then, if the 2020 recruiting class gets ranked in the top half of the Big Ten, or amongst the top 25 classes in the country, I’ll begin to believe IU Football is poised to start producing winning seasons on a regular basis.

    As for my opinion of Fred Glass, I don’t demonize the man on a personal level like many on the site did to Crean, I just point out that he has been an ineffective Athletic Director and that football, in particular, has suffered from his weak leadership. I point out why I don’t believe anything will change as long as he’s in charge. It’s not all his fault! His boss and IU’s Board of Trustees share the blame, and to some extent so does the Hoosier Nation for tolerating it for so long, but Fred’s the man who has hired and fired Football coaches for the last 11 years. He’s the man who determines the coaching compensation budget, which affects which coaches Iu can afford to hire. Fred’s the man who decided to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a very tall flag pole and giant American flag, as if that would improve the game experience for IU fans. I don’t see anyone contesting the facts I use to support my arguments against Fred Glass! And stop with the “IU has good soccer and baseball programs” arguments. That’s nice, but it’s majoring in minors. Football is overwhelmingly the most important college sport because it gets the most exposure/fan-interest/notoriety and generates the most revenue by far. So by having a weak football program for 11 consecutive years, IU has failed to capture tens of millions of dollars in revenue (i.e., profit) that could have been spent to make those other sports programs even stronger. For Power-five conference schools, if an Athletic Director has had a losing football program for 11 consecutive years, he hasn’t gotten the job done.

    1. Crean: “What do you call a sloppy pee at a Wizards game?”
      Calipari: “I don’t know…What?”
      Crean: “A John Wall accident.”

  8. How ironic that so many Hoosier fans demonized Tom Crean but continue to defend Fred Glass. If Fred Glass was half as successful in performing his job as Tom Crean was in coaching IU Basketball, or if IU Football was half as successful as IU Basketball was during Crean’s tenure at IU, we’d be debating whether Fred Glass is the most successful Athletic Director in America. Does anyone else see the irony?

  9. Demonizing….? Young men, albeit some of them troubled young men from broken families/ homeless circumstances, who played for Kelvin Sampson were continually demonized by Crean.
    I shed no tear for a man who uses his own faith as a spear. He could recruit because he could sell Indiana like a used car salesman. Key recruits from the state with higher basketball intellect than his own created his limited success. Once those recruits dried up, he was left with telling assistants to hold instructions written on cue cards during a game.
    He was a farce beyond all farces.

  10. Po- I don’t disagree that Glass hasn’t been bold about football but how much would a new AD be willing to change? Let’s say they spend $3 M and get a true Big Ten coach with a proven track record. Aside from Maryland and Rutgers, where are the additional wins going to come from? At best, IU could count on 1-2 crossover wins with the West Division. So instead of making a real push to win, Glass spends enough to maintain the status quo and give the illusion that next year will always be our year. His job is to get enough fans in the stands to pay for the minor sports- only spending enough to ensure IU beats Maryland, Rutgers and goes 50/50 against Purdue. Unless Mark Cuban decides IU needs to have a winning football program, IU football will continue to be that team that almost wins.

  11. The rankings of class don’t tell the real story as some players are much better than ranked IE Head running step for step with TEs in coverage when being a DE. Williams hitting so hard he knocked out a player with a legal hit despite it being called targeting. Scott as a 1,000 rusher while as a freshman.
    Go back and see Feeney, Spriggs, Whop, Coleman, and Howard along with others that were seen as 3 star or 2 star but instead are NFL players.

    From what I saw when freshmen were in the game they are B1G players with the way they played. Fitzgerald showed this year he really belongs along with FryFogle and other sophomores. IU’s ranking in recruiting this year would be better if not counting our long snapper as 2 star [he is rated as a 5 star by kicking sites] and if it included our 4 star QB Tuttle that will be in the 2019 class eligibility wise. Wed don’t know how the final five scholarships will go to and how it will effect the 2019 class. Going by the average star rating IU is in 6th place in the B1G. How fast the younger players develop will determine how well the 2019 season goes. I know if we still go with Ramsey the number of wins will be limited.

  12. I know if we still go with Ramsey the number of wins will be limited.

    I’m glad I’m in agreement with the resident football expert.

  13. PO, not sure how much tougher the 2019 schedule will play out. We’ve got the six usual suspects from the B1G East plus Pur-doo-doo and Ball St. again. So now swap E. Ill. and U Conn for last year’s U Va. and Charleston So. for the non-league games and that’s probably softer, not tougher. That leaves Neb. and N’western instead of Minn. and Iowa. Tougher, I agree. Especially if Neb. continues to improve from its awful first half of 2018. Also, IU faces the ‘Cats in Nov.; NU has had some crummy starts the last couple of seasons but has come on strong at the end of the year. But a lot can (and probably will) happen in the next nine months, so who knows? As far as I’m concerned, the 2019 campaign will depend a lot more on what happens with IU’s special teams and QB situation than the schedule.

  14. For eternal optimists, the glass is always half full. For pessimists, the glass is always half empty. I’m neither when it comes to IU Football. I’m a realist who looks for evidence that the program is either inclined upward or beginning to slide backward. Right now, I’m optimistic IU’s defense will be improved in 2019 after sliding backward last season (that’s all on T.A.). I’m optimistic we will have a better QB in 2019. I’m optimistic the new OC will be an improvement over DeBord. But those changes are relatively small relative to the overall strategic direction and culture of the program, both of which are profoundly affected by our Athletic Director, Fred Glass.

    I credit Fred for raising the money necessary to upgrade IU’s Football facilities. He’d make a great Director of Facilities, which I sometimes believe is what he thinks his job is. But let’s be honest, those new, improved facilities are just catching up to most other Big Ten Football programs, which have had vastly superior facilities for decades, and will still not be enough to convince 9 out of 10 HS kids to commit to IU over MI, OSU, or PSU. Leadership, competence, reputation and a history of success is what convinces the most talented HS players to commit to a school’s football program. Facilities are nice, but they’re window dressing compared to a proven coaching staff.

    To transform a losing football program into a winning football program, you need a head coach and staff who can recruit AND develop more talented players. And that takes a coach who has proven he has done that. That was Bill Mallory, who was a proven winner before he took the IU job. That was John Pont, who did it 50 years ago. That was Hep, who was in the process of doing it before his untimely death. But that was not Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Bill Lynch, or Kevin Wilson. And so far, it is not Tom Allen. In order for IU to be able to hire such a coach, at the very least, IU must be willing and able to offer a compensation budget (not just for the head coach, but for the entire staff) that is at least “average” in the Big Ten Conference. We’re not even close to the average Big Ten Football Coaching Compensation Budget. If you can’t or won’t do that, then really your strategy is simply to “hope” that some unproven former Coordinator, who is a nice guy, will develop into a good head coach. At best that takes many years, but more likely it just never happens, especially in the Big Ten’s Eastern Division, which is loaded with elite, powerhouse football programs. It’s like learning how to drive in the midst of the Indy 500!

    If Fred Glass does not understand this, he’s not qualified to be a Big Ten Athletic Director. If he understands it but either can’t or won’t implement such a strategy, he lacks the vision and leadership necessary to transform IU Football. He raises money to improve facilities, but can’t raise the money to pay average compensation to his football coaching staff? Since he hired a proven head coach in Archie Miller for Basketball, one can only conclude that he understands what’s necessary but chooses not to do the same for the Football program. That choice/strategy would, at any other Power-five conference school, have cost him his job years ago. And it’s past time he be fired by IU.

  15. Is TA going to wait til next season starts to hire OC? It seems that the established major coaches have one, two, or three already in the pipeline before one of their assistants are gone and hire replacements in a short time. However, I do understand that TA is not established as a head coach.

  16. Does the new OC get to choose his assistant coaches or does he have to work with who’s already there? I would think he would want to pick his guys to run his system. That get’s more complicated than just hiring 1 coach. Plus TA could get bought out in a couple of years and whoever the OC is could be looking for work again. Not as straight forward as it seems.

  17. I’m starting to get the felling that the OC hire may come internally. Sounds like TA doesn’t want any outside hire to bring in anyone with them. Could be a good idea or might be a bad idea. Time will tell.

  18. I don’t think they will promote internally because no one on staff has play calling experience which was TA’s #1 criterion.

    1. HC called it. I didn’t even list DoBoer on my candidate list because I didn’t see any connection to him and IU.

      1. Thanks for the pat on the back. But I saw his name suggested on another site, did some research, very much liked the strong results he produces and brought him to the attention of the Scoop.

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